Once Again: Do Not Send Legal Threats To Companies Because You Don't Like What A User Says

from the both-according-to-the-law-and-common-sense dept

It's getting to be rather silly how many times we've posted about section 230 of the CDA, which protects websites from the actions of their users -- but it seems that there's no shortage of folks with quick legal trigger fingers, who figure that anything they dislike online must be illegal, and they can blame the site that hosted it. The latest example, sent in by an anonymous reader, is that 800Notes, one of many websites that allows users to post notes on random callers (telemarketers and such) discovered that the owner of one company, mynutritionstore, whose phone number was listed on the site sent an angry threat demanding it be taken down, because someone had a negative experience with the company. When 800Notes told the owner of mynutritionstore that it would not remove the negative reviews, he apparently threatened to sue 800Notes. Public Citizen stepped in and sent him a quick legal lesson on the safe harbors provided by the CDA, how anti-SLAPP laws work and also pointed out that his claim that the posts were defamatory is clearly shown to be untrue by the fact that the same demand for a takedown claims that the content is proprietary to mynutrtionstore. If it's proprietary than that would indicate that it's truthful, not defamatory. It's not libel if it's the truth.

So, once again, just because you dislike what someone has to say about you online, it doesn't mean that it's illegal. Also, threatening to sue the service provider for content you dislike generated by users is bound to backfire -- often badly. Hopefully, more people will learn this, and we'll stop seeing these sorts of threats.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 4:42am

    Most people just do not seem to understand and one can summarize it is because the popular news media really does not understand and as such spreads a completely false concept of the First Amendment.

    To put this in prospective the First Amendment defines freedom while the Second Amendment defines responsibility. The relation between the two was defined by the Alexander Hamilton vs. Arron Burr debate.

    To recap Alexander, Chairman of the Continental Congress, was a very quick whetted mouth type who insulted the slow whetted hot head Vice President Arron Burr. They settled their differences by Burr planting Hamilton. This pissed off Thomas Jefferson, President, who has Burr literally dragged back to D.C from Louisiana, French Territory at the time, and placed on trial for treason. It took John Marshall, Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, to straighten things out which he did by declaring that Burr could not be tried for treason as he had not engaged in treason against the US.

    Freedom vs. Responsibility. Freedom to do what one wants and responsibility for one action afterwards.

    It is this responsibility thing that is now missing in popular thought.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    yib, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 4:52am

    yib

    yes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    wasnt me, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 5:20am

    lawyers need to make a living too

    /sarcasm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    AJ, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 6:24am

    BS Effect

    This will do nothing but invoke the Barbra Streisand effect...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Evan, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 6:26am

    Re:

    Whetted? You mean witted?

    Your comment doesn't relate at all. You're missing the context of the disagreement (which is what the ruling of treason vs. non-treason is based upon).

    On top of that, your little anecdote about Hamilton and Burr does not illustrate your idea of freedom vs. responsibility at all, since Burr wasn't punished (taking responsibility) for his actions (freedom) in your version of the story.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymoose Cowherd, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 6:34am

    Heh, the comments on 800notes's website about mynutritionstore get pretty ridiculous... It seems like the company sent their goons to post a bunch of "crap" positive stuff to counter the negative. I agree with a poster there, that the repetitive "positive" comments did more damage then the negative ones.
    800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-888-712-3888

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Read A Dictionary, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 7:01am

    Whetted means to be sharp or stimulate

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 7:20am

    The Lawyer's open letter, linked to in the link, is a pretty effective piece on lawyering. If that doesn't dissuade the mynutrition side they deserve to lose what ever he can squeeze out of them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 7:20am

    The Lawyer's open letter, linked to in the link, is a pretty effective piece on lawyering. If that doesn't dissuade the mynutrition side they deserve to lose what ever he can squeeze out of them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 7:22am

    "It's getting to be rather silly how many times we've posted about section 230 of the CDA, which protects websites from the actions of their users "

    Well come up with some decent articles then?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 8:09am

    Re: Re:

    Sorry you do not have the ability to understand the relation of action to integrity. I guess comprehension is just to much for most people which is why the current situation exist.

    First the smart mouth that created the conflict was not Burr; it was Hamilton and he definitely did suffer the consequences of his actions.

    Hot head Burr. Vice President one day on the run to French Louisiana, drug back o Washington, placed on trial for treason, driven back out of the US and made flat broke did not suffer any punishment officially as he was not guilty of any crime.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Luc Boardwalk, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 8:22am

    Proprietary AND defamatory?

    Teehee!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Alexander Hamilton, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 8:40am

    Glove SLAP!

    "First the smart mouth that created the conflict was not Burr; it was Hamilton and he definitely did suffer the consequences of his actions."

    You sir, have challenged my honor, and I demand satisfaction! I challenge you to a duel on the field of honor; I shall harvest your scrotum as a memento of this event!

    Move along...

    Nothing to see here except some wanabe history buff and his off-topic stories of a bygone day (well also there are his snippy retorts now that he has realized what he said make little to no sense).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 8:43am

    Wow, the level of maturity in corporations is sure dropping lately. Employees do lousy work, and when it comes back to bite them, instead of trying to correct their work habits, they whine and complain and try to sue everybody in sight. Whatever happened to customer service? It's about nothing more than pure greed anymore. If it wasn't, we wouldn't have this telemarketing problem in the first place.

    On a related note, I recently had a problem with some stupid place in Wisconsin (I'm in Minnesota) calling me constantly, at various times of the day and night, sometimes more than once per day. I rarely ever use my landline phone (mostly there for DSL) and the number is unlisted, unpublished, and on the do-not-call list. I googled the phone number calling me and found out it's a nasty telemarketing scheme, which I find very offensive provided the measures I've taken to avoid phone spam.

    Anyway, after about 3 dozen or so times with that number calling me, the last time the phone started to ring, I picked it up and slammed it back down. Apparently they got the message, because that number hasn't called anymore since then. If only all these telemarketers were so easy to deal with. XD

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Abdul, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 9:07am

    Double Standards!!

    Litigation is the order of the day in Western countries and certainly this trend will continue in this internet age. But i really don't understand why there is one set of rules for the internet and then another set for offline. There are many things which are very legal offline but can be interpreted to be illegal online!!Why should a web host be penalize for hosting a controversial comment bey a user?Should Web Hosts Have the Right to Censor?(http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=466&doc_id=149166&F_src=flftw o)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    The Massachusetts Potato, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 9:19am

    Re:

    >> Well come up with some decent articles then?

    Why not submit stories that are relevant to your interests? There's a link at the top. Look for "Submit a story"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Klaatu Berata Nikto, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Learn to spell

    " If it's proprietary then (not than) that would indicate that it's truthful".
    Take the time to check your spelling and grammar before posting, Mr. Masnick.
    We're writing English here, sir; otherwise, oprima el número ocho para español.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    The Can of Beans Speaks!, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 10:10am

    Re: Double Standards!!

    But i really don't understand why there is one set of rules for the internet and then another set for offline. There are many things which are very legal offline but can be interpreted to be illegal online!!

    Maybe this is because it's visual format, and it's been long understood that "Professionals" typically are visual in their day-to-day profession. For example, one who practices the gamut of law or politics typically spends years upon years reading, memorization, as an attempt for comprehension. As such, being a visual learner is a strong asset.

    However, when conversations are taken to the web, and are presented in a written format, it lacks inflection which may cue a listener in on your level of seriousness. This can be offset with liberal use of references to LOLz, teh interwebs, and various other internet phenomenon which are "filtered out" by non-community users as they do not necessarily associate themselves with the online culture as their goal is to consume, and not necessarily contribute.

    Carefully placed grammatical errors can give a sole "consumer" a feeling of superiority, hence comments about "Grammar" "Dictionary Usage" or otherwise. By utilizing this technique, consumers eventually may seek other venues to leech from. Additionally, names and subjects should be scrutinized. Would a comment from "The Can of Beans Speaks!" be taken seriously if shared with a high ranking director? Probably not.

    Why should a web host be penalized for hosting a controversial comment bey a user?

    I believe much of this is when new people don't adhere to netiquette themselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    John, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    I'm no lawyer, but...

    To poster #1, who's trying to make a point about the First Amendment right to freedom speech.

    Now, I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure the right to free speech only applies to citizens making statements about a government agency on public property.

    In other words, I can't go to store #1 and yell out that store #2 has cheaper prices. This is not "freedom of speech".

    Also, (and this is very important), most websites are privately owned, which makes "freedom of speech" irrelevant. If the site owners don't want you to say something, it's not "government censorship" at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Bill, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 2:23pm

    Re: I'm no lawyer, but...

    John "I am not a lawyer but..."

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    Doesn't say anything about "citizens making statements about a government agency on public property." It says "Congress shall make no law .....abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." There's a bit about the right to sue the government, but that's another bullet point in the amendment. There may have been law made since then, but I think the Constitution and amendments thereto trump that law any day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Kyla, Oct 14th, 2008 @ 12:59pm

    Posting of Phone Numbers online

    Websites are all over the place now like 800notes. But I like this one where you can post on any phone number that exists, not just companies that you are ticked off about.

    I found the phone number for Amazon on there after looking around for it all over their website.

    It's called http://www.callwiki.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    abc, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    How to get items removed from 800notes

    I don't have a company, I have a mentally unstable stalkerharasser who publishes untrue slander and vile statements about me and my family on 800notes through various random phone numbers. I have an order of protection and restraining order but my attorney is having difficulty finding a contact at 800 to stop these untrue posting from affecting other parts of my life. Any suggestions of what can be done?

    Thanks

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Carol, Jan 19th, 2009 @ 5:16am

    Finding phone numbers

    ABC -- try doing a whois lookup on them.

    There's another website that allows you to reverse lookup phone numbers

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This